CHAMPCAR/CART: An interview with TV broadcast, production team, part I

An interview with: Derek Daly Tommy Kendall Scott Pruett Calvin Fish Bob Varsha Terry Lingner DOUG SELLARS Moderator: We now welcome the CART SPEED Channel announcing and production team. We'll do a quick round of introductions here and get...

An interview with:

Derek Daly Tommy Kendall Scott Pruett Calvin Fish Bob Varsha Terry Lingner DOUG SELLARS

Moderator: We now welcome the CART SPEED Channel announcing and production team. We'll do a quick round of introductions here and get right to questions.

One thing I do want to point out here, while the announcing team has one race under its belt as a team, in the Tecate Telmex Grand Prix in Mexico that was a little over ten days ago, the same crew will be together for the next race in the CART schedule, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the weekend of April 11th through the 14th.

As you may have seen from an announcement distributed by CART yesterday, that race will air on the FOX network on April 14th with air time scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Both Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions from Long Beach as well as the CART Friday night show will be on the FOX-owned SPEED Channel network.

We first welcome in Derek Daly, a veteran motorsports driver of over 17 years. Derek first began announcing in 1985 and serves as both host and commentator on the CART FedEx Championship Series telecasts. Derek, thanks for joining us this afternoon.

Derek Daly: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Moderator: We'll also say hello to Bob Varsha. Bob first began announcing in 1980, over the years he's covered a wide range of motorsports, including CART, Formula 1, sports cars, motorcycles and drag racing. He's beginning his fourth year with the SPEED Channel family and serves as play-by-play announcer on the CART telecast. Bob, thanks for participating in today's call.

Bob Varsha: Glad to be here. Thank you.

Moderator: We now move on to Tommy Kendall. What can you say about TK? He began racing professionally in 1986, championships at various levels of motorsports over the years, before turning his attention to broadcasting. He joins Bob in the booth on the CART telecast and provides truly colorful commentary. Tommy, thanks for being part of today's teleconference.

Tommy Kendall: My pleasure.

Moderator: We also welcome in Calvin Fish, another motorsports veteran of the track. Calvin competed and won in the Formula Ford, SCCA Trucks, Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights series, just to name a few. He's been associated with the SPEED Channel network for over five years and works in pit lane during the CART broadcasts. Thanks for joining us today, Calvin.

Calvin Fish: Thanks, mate, it's great to be here.

Moderator: We also welcome in Scott Pruett. He's won championships in several different levels of motorsports, and he competed in the CART FedEx Championship Series as recently as the 1999 season. He began his career in broadcasting last year, and we're happy to welcome him back to the CART family as a pit reporter on broadcasts this season. Scott, thanks for taking some time out to talk with us today.

SPEAKER: Good to be here.

Moderator: Those are the members of the FOX and SPEED Channel announcing team. We're also fortunate to be joined today by two of the men behind the scenes who make the broadcast possible, Doug Sellars is the vice president and executive producer for SPEED Channel Remote Productions. He's been producing high-profile sporting events across the globe for over 15 years. Doug, thanks for joining us today.

DOUG SELLARS: My pleasure, as well.

Moderator: And last but certainly not least, we're joined by Terry Lingner, a three-time Emmy winning producer whose company, Lingner Group Productions, works in conjunction with the network to produce the actual broadcast from the track. Terry, we're happy to welcome you to today's call.

Terry Lingner: You're awesome.

Moderator: Thank you, sir. Let's open it for questions for any of our guests today.

Q Hi, guys. Pretty darn good debut there in Mexico, a good review all around, lot of space, you used it well. What are the challenges you guys are facing this year, and what particular difficulties did you encounter at Monterrey or challenges?

Moderator: We'll start out with Doug and Terry, if can you make a couple comments.

DOUG SELLARS: I think challenges of any new venture are obviously the chemistry between the group that presents the programs. I thought remarkably for a bunch of new people working together, they gelled very quickly.

We feel I think coming out of Mexico that we're at about 70 percent of where we think we should be. So it's nice to read all the great laudits of our coverage, but we certainly feel there's room to grow and improve. A lot of that comes from the guys working together both on the air and behind the scenes.

The challenges of Mexico obviously were with our world feed partners who at the end of the day pulled it off. We've worked with them and helped them as best we could. We will certainly be more comfortable on any U.S.-based race when we control the world pictures.

But that's really it. I really have to say hats off to the guys on this call along with Terry and his production group who really stepped up and realized we had an opportunity to give back to the CART audience something they hadn't seen for a couple years. I'd love to tell that you Terry and I are absolute geniuses. Really, it was I think common sense television in bringing the viewers what they want to see and want to hear. I think "want to hear" might be the biggest thing in terms of the amount of time we're now committing to these programs, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With only 20 drivers, 20 teams -- ten teams virtually, I don't have my exact numbers, we have an opportunity to really put names to the faces and hear what these guys have to say.

I thought the drivers really were the stars of our first weekend. They stepped up and made our jobs easy by allowing us access to them, even when they're walking out of a port-a-potty trying to get to their cars.

That's the long answer to your short question. Terry.

Terry Lingner: I feel the same way. I think it was a tremendous effort by everyone. I know literally how many calls and how many e-mails and how much cooperation we've had from literally the time of the assignment all the way up to the broadcast.

I'm just really jazzed that we had such a good sneak preview and everybody has been so positive, it's been fun to work with the drivers. As I mentioned, the announce team I think is going -- if we can keep this thing rolling and keep the momentum, keep the communications going, it's going to be looked at as one of the best announce teams ever. It's going to be my job to try to see that prediction come true.

But I also would say, you know what, no matter what, when you go down and see that much beauty, which I thought the racetrack was gorgeous, Ron Dixon did a heck of a job getting it ready for us, amongst several challenges. But when you have that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of crowd, that kind of story line with Adrian on the pole, I mean, how can you not be excited about putting that on the air?

So I'm really looking forward to going to the grand daddy of them all here at Long Beach for the CART series. You know, hopefully we'll have the same thing going with either Vasser or Michael, we'll get that patriotic theme going that I think really drives a lot of enthusiasm to the broadcast.

But we really enjoyed ourselves.

Derek Daly: Gordon, from the announcer's point of view, there was a couple of things that came to be a bit of a trend during not -- not just during Mexico, but during the time afterwards when the five of us were put together.

Although Mexico was good, I firmly believe it's going to take the announcers four to six races to really gel together. But just to give you an idea of the sort of underlying theme that has run through the announcers, the programming, everything, right before the show opened Saturday, Terry came to me and said, "Just make people want to be there with you. You know, relax and just tell them how much fun it is here."

And that became a sort of a theme that ran through the whole show and everything we've done. It's almost something you can see and feel. I think that was probably projected during the shows, that we actually loved being there. It was actually a lot of fun doing what we did, and it's going to get even better.

Bob Varsha: Reiterating what Terry was saying earlier, paraphrasing it, with all due respect to our industry, it's a lot easier to make good television when you have good material to work with. Like Terry and Doug and perhaps everyone else on the team, this was my first visit to Monterrey. I was very impressed with the spectacle and the show. I know for a fact, from experience, how great a show Long Beach is, so I'm really looking forward to that.

I'll back up what Derek said about the announce team gelling. I've worked with Derek, worked with Calvin, worked a little bit with Tommy, hadn't worked at all hardly with Scott in the past. I was enormously gratified myself at how we all seemed to feel like old friends working together on that very first occasion in Monterrey.

Derek Daly: Doug thinks the drivers were the stars. Don't you and I think the announcers were the stars?

Bob Varsha: I would certainly like to think so.

DOUG SELLARS: You know I can't admit that.

Bob Varsha: I'd like to pat all the drivers on the back, crews up and down pit lane. The reception we've gotten from the series has been so warm. I'm probably the Johnny-come-lately in this group because everybody else was at sneak preview except me. Even at Monterrey, I came in late for personal reasons and didn't have as much opportunity to mingle with the people that I came to know years ago in my previous tenure with the series.

I can't wait for Long Beach just to get back out in the paddock and say hello to my old friends.

Tommy Kendall: I don't mean to break up this love fest, but I thought we all sucked.

Derek Daly: Speak for yourself.

Tommy Kendall: That's me, Bob.

Moderator: Just to expand on Gordon's question, we haven't heard from Calvin and Scott and Tommy, if you wanted to comment. How did you think the weekend went from your perspective?

Scott Pruett: One, I was totally intimidated going down there. My experience in TV is very limited, and it's mainly just been from the analyst side of things, not from doing interviews. Heading down there, I was scared to death actually.

The guys were real good, you know, Derek and Calvin, taking the time, going, "Just be yourself, just ask those questions that you would like to be asked, and don't ask those questions you're sick of being asked."

"You're down towards the end of the race, your engine blows, are you upset?" Well, duh. Don't ask those stupid questions; try and come up with good things.

The other thing we can't forget is what has happened within CART. One, everybody sees that we need to make this a great year. It's always been a great product, always been great racing, and now we finally have the opportunity with the commitment from SPEED to bring these drivers to life with extra programming time, to give back to the viewers certainly what they've been asking for. Let's see the start and let's see the podium, let's see the end of the race. Let's see through all the labors of the team and the driver, let's see what happens.

Now, especially with the new format for qualifying and the new format for the race, it's brought in such a new excitement and refreshing look to CART that there were so many great things to talk about. I believe it's only going to get better.

For us as a team, you know, I think it was pretty rough. I think we have great opportunities to improve. You know, just like any driver stepping into a new team, I mean, it takes a while before you gel together and come out of the box looking strong. But you really don't catch your stride till mid-season.

Now, hopefully we can do better than that. I'm seeing four or five races down the road, we catch our stride, not just the announce team, but the directors and the people behind the scenes. I think this is going to turn into something awesome.

Calvin Fish: From a personal standpoint, I think the challenges going in for me were -- I think everyone's pretty comfortable with the qualifying shows because it's a very relaxed format, you have a lot of time. Certainly on Saturday with the wet session, we were kind of on our toes a little bit keeping it entertaining and filling the 90-minute session.

But the race was different for me because, you know, doing sports car racing for the past few years, the pit stops are a lot longer, you're looking at 30 to 60 seconds, you can do a little more story telling there. I was a bit apprehensive going into the race being on the other side of pit wall. Sports car series, you can be out there in pit lane and really get a good look at what's going on. Obviously the pit lane's a lot busier with the Champ Cars.

So the other side of pit wall, you've got, you know, a much shorter window to get your point across. So I think that was the biggest challenge for me going in.

Just to reiterate what all the guys have said. The reception and the welcome that we got from the teams and the drivers has been outstanding. And we all realize it's a very critical year for us all. We have a great opportunity here to make something special. By them stepping forward and giving us the ability and insight to what's going on, I mean, we got some great things on tap for Long Beach with some of the things that were taped in terms of team meetings and strategy sessions which we weren't allowed to show on the same race weekend because it was live, but certainly for next show, Terry's working on putting that together.

They've been tremendous in really giving us the access to the information and, you know, you have people like Barry Green and people like that who are really at the top of their game, they're coming forward, stepping up, Derek Walker coming up before the beginning of race, telling me what was going to happen, things like that is what it's all about.

From Scott and my perspective being down there in pit lane, and also Derek with his role, it's really about listening to Bob's and TK's story-telling upstairs. I try and put my mind -- try to become the person sitting at home and try and fill in the missing links. There's a limit. You do your homework. Once the race starts, Scott and my role is to fill in all the information and answer all the questions that are being raised from the program. Once we get in our stride a little bit, I think that will get better and better.

Tommy Kendall: The parallels to racing and this are numerous. Scott touched on that. Like for me, one of the big things is just really feeling comfortable in my surroundings. The more comfortable I get, I imagine the other guys are the same way, the more fun I'll have, and the performance tends to step up as well.

I was really proud of the whole team in Mexico. With the rule changes both in qualifying and in the race, I felt like we were not blindsided by anything. We really -- I mean, we're going to obviously get better and smoother, but I thought that everybody, the amount of homework in front of and behind the cameras was evident, and I was really out of everyone there.

Heading into Long Beach, being on FOX is just a tremendous opportunity. I have a busy weekend, I'm racing in the pro celebrity race. After having just done a little bit of training out at Willow Springs, there's a big chance I'm going to get my butt kicked by a hundred-pound female.

Derek Daly: That wouldn't be the first time.

Terry Lingner: Can we bring a camera?

Bob Varsha: In the car or out of the car?

Tommy Kendall: I'm either going to be really happy or a little bit ticked off on Sunday. Either way, I will be in rare form on Sunday. I'm looking forward to that.

I'd like to thank Doug and Terry for giving me the green light to do that. They're giving me the mornings off Friday and Saturday so I can do what I have to do for the Toyota folks. Being a hometown guy, growing up in this town, Long Beach is, you know, part of my life. Been around for 20 some years. I grew up with it. So racing there in the celebrity race is cool for me personally.

Derek Daly: Leave it on the track. Leave it all on the track.

Bob Varsha: If he loses, he's not getting in the booth on Sunday.

Moderator: We had kind of a situation that developed at the beginning the race in Monterrey where Townsend and Jimmy Vasser came together. Both these guys are from California. Tommy, you're in the California mindset out there. I know there's been some kind of heated exchange with them since that incident occurred. Do you have any insight on that, talk to either one of those guys, tell us how the feelings are going into Long Beach?

Tommy Kendall: I haven't spoken to either of them, other than what everybody heard on air. I thought Townsend owning up to it like he did -- we didn't have a great view, again thanks to our folks at TV Azteca, in terms of the head on view would have shown a lot more.

Townsend was really was wise to not defend himself too strongly. That picture might have told a different story, namely I think it was mostly his fault, but Jimmy probably gave him a pretty good squeeze, which just made it worse.

Putting myself in the racer's shoes, whether it's California, New York, wherever you're from, that leaves a mark. You know, Jimmy is a little bit hacked, his race season is off to a horrible start as a result of that. Townsend, you know, has a lot of pressure, wants to prove himself. I mean, those things don't just go away. I'm sure they'll all say everything is fine, it's all forgotten and so forth. The reality is it's probably not.

Scott Pruett: I was right in the middle of all that happening, even beforehand, because I did drive for Patrick Racing before. You know, leading up to it, Townsend was pretty voicey, telling everybody he was going to come down and kick everybody's butt. In one of the interviews, we called him on the carpet. Came up to him and said, "Hey, you're talking the talk but can you walk the walk?"

After the fact and what happened in the race, you know, Jimmy was the same thing. He was just -- he was using a lot more colorful words before he got on the air about what had happened.

No matter how you try and put it behind you as a driver, there is going to be some ill feelings there going into the next race -- and who knows what's going to happen. That usually doesn't shake off till mid-season, with all that emotion that runs through drivers. It doesn't go away overnight. You kind of keep your eye out. You certainly will probably help out the other guy if you get a chance to.

You're not certainly -- you're not going to, you know, let him get off without any sort of penalty. You kind of know it, it's something going on, a little block in qualifying, whatever the case might be. There's going to be some issues to solve this thing out that we may or may not see.

Tommy Kendall: That was a stroke of genius on Terry's part. It worked out timing-wise as well. Earlier on, we were planning on, if a guy is out early, try to get him on head sets.

Townsend had just sat down when Jimmy went on the air, and he kept going on and on and on. I kept trying to look at Townsend. He was just stone faced. I was kind of giggling a little bit. He didn't think it was very funny.

Moderator: Thanks for your comments. We appreciate that. Obviously a developing rivalry here and something we'll keep an eye on going into Long Beach.

Part II Broadcast interview


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Scott Pruett , Calvin Fish , Tom Kendall , Barry Green , Derek Daly